Distance Learning Program Brings Books to Life for SCSD High Schools

     Published on 5/26/15   Tagged under:    District News   

“That ending, though!”
“I know! I had to go read the next two books in the series!”
Students in Nottingham’s book club are animated as they discuss their reactions to their latest novel. Discussion usually starts with reaction to the latest book club read—and quickly turns to other books the students are reading on their own, they explain.
“It’s fun when they recommend other books that they think I’ll like,” senior Azar Abdulkadir said of her book club comrades.
Book club members—and high school students—throughout the district have been enjoying a unique learning experience, thanks to the WeLearn@SCSD program.
In 2012, the Syracuse City School District received a three-year New York State Learning Technology Grant to encourage the effective use of technology in instruction. The grant allowed the district to purchase distance learning equipment and a learning management system called Moodle.
“Moodle allows our students to take courses that their own school didn’t offer or that schools couldn’t offer because they didn’t have enough students to fill the course,” Manami Tezuka, Supervisor of Library Media Services, said. For instance, at ITC, students were able to take SUPA Entrepreneurship, Nottingham students were offered Digital Music, and at Corcoran, students could enroll in ESF Global Environment. Staff also benefitted, with 120 teachers participating in professional development on blended learning and how to use Moodle in instruction.
In addition to these digital learning opportunities, the WeLearn@SCSD grant provided an exciting opportunity to high school book club participants. Students at all five SCSD high schools meet in their respective schools weekly, and thanks to the digital learning system, they can also collaborate once a month as a digital book club.
Nottingham Sophomore Shukri Sharif explained, “It’s so fun when we do video conferences with the other high schools. It’s cool to learn their point of view.”
That point of view, however, is sometimes different—which is what makes the digital book club fun, ITC Librarian Thad Sohoski said.
 “Last year, we had the best argument with a girl from Nottingham,” ITC junior Brittany McIntosh recalled with a laugh. “We really liked a character and she didn’t! It’s interesting connecting with people from other schools.”
Nottingham Librarian Maureen Page said this collaboration has enhanced the students’ book club experience. “Meeting with students from other high schools in our district has been a real community building experience,” she explained.
As the final activity of the year, book club participants attend the Teen Book Fest, this year held at Nazareth College in Rochester. Thanks to the grant, the district is able to purchase books for students who take part in the book club—and then students have the opportunity at Teen Book Fest to meet the authors whose works they have been reading throughout the year.
“The students look forward to this event all year long!” Ms. Page said.
Azar explained the excitement over the book fair, exclaiming, “I couldn’t wait to meet [author] Ally Condie! She writes amazing books and amazing plots and I just loved to meet her!’”
ITC freshman Andru Kinkle was also excited to meet his favorite authors. “If I can meet Jessica Brody and A.S. King, I’m set,” he said. “Reading fuels the imagination. Instead of watching a movie, you can read where it started—the books are written first!”

Click through the Teen Book Fest by visiting our Flickr album of student photos from the event >>>